An often engaging inspirational tale.


Retired journalist and radio broadcaster Jackson offers a debut mystery series-starter set in the music business, starring a middle-aged woman who rises to fame as a manager in Nashville’s Music Row. 

Life isn’t treating Sarah Ann Boswell well lately. After her 26-year marriage to a high-powered attorney ends, she loses her job as vice president of community outreach for a charitable foundation, and things look bleak for her. In a fateful moment, she tries to end it all by taking an overdose of sleeping pills. Lucky for Sarah Ann, she’s rushed to the hospital before reaching the point of no return. With her ever faithful prayer group and her two adult children supporting her, Sarah Ann manages to face her situation, and she begins to recover. Jill Edgerton, the founder of a Nashville music-management firm, happens to be recuperating in the next bed. She offers Sarah Ann her friendship and a job—two things that Sarah Ann can’t pass up. Shortly after hitching her wagon to Jill’s, she meets musician Jared Parson, who “has the looks of a young Vince Gill, hips like Elvis, and a voice to challenge Blake Shelton.” The women immediately sign him as a client and later produce his CD, which hits the top of the charts. But something isn’t quite right about the new country star. And when someone turns up dead, Sarah Ann knows something is very, very wrong. Jackson’s writing wraps the reader in Southern charm, channeling Southern Living and offering recipes reminiscent of those in Paula Deen’s Southern Cooking Bible. When Sarah Ann isn’t meeting with her prayer group—which is apparently designed more for venting than praying—she’s attending the Grand Ole Opry or eating barbecued ribs. But although Jackson’s story is engaging throughout, its main plotline is delayed; although a minor mystery is alluded to in Chapter 8, the real one doesn’t get going until Chapter 26. Characters spend the remaining 11 chapters figuring out whodunit and encountering some overly helpful coincidences (including one involving a very clear fingerprint) and unoriginal motives (money and sex). But although the mystery isn’t challenging, it remains entertaining to the end.

An often engaging inspirational tale.

Pub Date: May 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-948679-05-3

Page Count: 296

Publisher: WordCrafts Press

Review Posted Online: May 18, 2018

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Debut novel by hip-hop rap artist Sister Souljah, whose No Disrespect (1994), which mixes sexual history with political diatribe, is popular in schools country-wide. In its way, this is a tour de force of black English and underworld slang, as finely tuned to its heroine’s voice as Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. The subject matter, though, has a certain flashiness, like a black Godfather family saga, and the heroine’s eventual fall develops only glancingly from her character. Born to a 14-year-old mother during one of New York’s worst snowstorms, Winter Santiaga is the teenaged daughter of Ricky Santiaga, Brooklyn’s top drug dealer, who lives like an Arab prince and treats his wife and four daughters like a queen and her princesses. Winter lost her virginity at 12 and now focuses unwaveringly on varieties of adolescent self-indulgence: sex and sugar-daddies, clothes, and getting her own way. She uses school only as a stepping-stone for getting out of the house—after all, nobody’s paying her to go there. But if there’s no money in it, why go? Meanwhile, Daddy decides it’s time to move out of Brooklyn to truly fancy digs on Long Island, though this places him in the discomfiting position of not being absolutely hands-on with his dealers; and sure enough the rise of some young Turks leads to his arrest. Then he does something really stupid: he murders his wife’s two weak brothers in jail with him on Riker’s Island and gets two consecutive life sentences. Winter’s then on her own, especially with Bullet, who may have replaced her dad as top hood, though when she selfishly fails to help her pregnant buddy Simone, there’s worse—much worse—to come. Thinness aside: riveting stuff, with language so frank it curls your hair. (Author tour)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-671-02578-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

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Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the...


Hannah’s sequel to Firefly Lane (2008) demonstrates that those who ignore family history are often condemned to repeat it.

When we last left Kate and Tully, the best friends portrayed in Firefly Lane, the friendship was on rocky ground. Now Kate has died of cancer, and Tully, whose once-stellar TV talk show career is in free fall, is wracked with guilt over her failure to be there for Kate until her very last days. Kate’s death has cemented the distrust between her husband, Johnny, and daughter Marah, who expresses her grief by cutting herself and dropping out of college to hang out with goth poet Paxton. Told mostly in flashbacks by Tully, Johnny, Marah and Tully’s long-estranged mother, Dorothy, aka Cloud, the story piles up disasters like the derailment of a high-speed train. Increasingly addicted to prescription sedatives and alcohol, Tully crashes her car and now hovers near death, attended by Kate’s spirit, as the other characters gather to see what their shortsightedness has wrought. We learn that Tully had tried to parent Marah after her father no longer could. Her hard-drinking decline was triggered by Johnny’s anger at her for keeping Marah and Paxton’s liaison secret. Johnny realizes that he only exacerbated Marah’s depression by uprooting the family from their Seattle home. Unexpectedly, Cloud, who rebuffed Tully’s every attempt to reconcile, also appears at her daughter’s bedside. Sixty-nine years old and finally sober, Cloud details for the first time the abusive childhood, complete with commitments to mental hospitals and electroshock treatments, that led to her life as a junkie lowlife and punching bag for trailer-trash men. Although powerful, Cloud’s largely peripheral story deflects focus away from the main conflict, as if Hannah was loath to tackle the intractable thicket in which she mired her main characters.

Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the pages turning even as readers begin to resent being drawn into this masochistic morass.

Pub Date: April 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-312-57721-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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